UNWRITTEN POLICY OF IGBO STRANGULATION: The inequities are so glaringly brazen. If you had any insight and experience, you are bound to come to near-tears sometimes when the large picture morph into a national agenda: a genocide by another guise.
It’s a sinking feeling reinforced by each new act of premeditated injustice that has acquired the coloration of a national ethos.
Yes, marginalizarion of Igbo has been like an unwritten national policy since after the civil war but our current president, Muhammadu Buhari seem to derive an especial joy and comfort implementing this longstanding economic strangulation policy against the Igbo nation. Peppering Ndigbo is the only task Buhari carries out with uncharacteristic gusto.
The launch of the $2.6 billion, 614km Ajaokuta, Kaduna, Kano gas pipeline is remarkable in two distinct and negating senses.
It is a gigantic national infrastructure rising from the heart of the Niger Delta up to the northernmost part of the country in Kan; quite laudable if there was justice in the land. But on the other hand, the southeast zone which has suffered over 60 years of ruinous non-stop gas flaring doesn’t have the benefit of this manner of project.
The AKK gas pipeline originates from Obiafu-Obrikom facility near Omoku, Rivers State to Oben in Edo State from whence the AKK pipes are connected. It is part of the almost stillborn East West Gas Pipeline (EWGP) which had been abandoned for over a decade while NNPC was burning funds on a wild goose hydrocarbon chase in the Chad basin.
Now that EWGP is going to pipe gas to the north, perhaps it will eventually come to fruition.
Again, AKK is a strategic national infrastructure required to catalyse industrial development up north but when such investments are made in a blatantly discriminatory manner then it becomes an embarrassment and a source of discord.
Imo is a short distance from Porth Harcourt and could be connected to the gas grid; it is also an oil-producing state with ample gas reserve. In fact, since 1964 when crude oil was mined in Izombe and Oguta, unmitigated flaring of gas has gone on.
The environmental carnage on the oil communities and the state generally cannot be quantified. Yet this gas has to be piped up north, nearly 700 kilometres to bolster industrial development in communities suffering no collateral damage arising from crude oil mining.
If this is not scorched-earth policy, what then is it?
SCORCHED-EARTH POLICY OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT:
The southeast is not only cleverly sidetracked in the so-called gas masterplan, thw zone is not in the reckoning in all sectors of Nigeria’s strategic infrastructure development since after the civil war.
Consider these facts: there are two main gas arteries making up the gas masterplan: a) the 1200 km south-north system and the 700km western system.
While the south- north system comprises the AKK up to the Trans-saharan supply to north Africa, the western system is into two lines: the Escravos Lagos Pipeline System (ELPS) which traverses the south west industrial complexes of Lagos, Ogun, and verging into Lekki, Victoria Island and Ikoyi, and the West Africa Gasline System (WAGP), the export node supplying Benin, Togo, Ghana, etc.
Yet southeast which has vast gas deposits and which has industrial complexes in Onitsha, Aba, Awka, Nnewi Owerri and Umuahia hardly has any functional gas facility as at today. And it is indeed, not in the so-called National Gas Masterplan.
In fact apart from the oil rigs and gas flare totems, there’s no single oil and gas complex in Igboland. No refineries, no petrochemical complex, no fertiliser factory, no methanol plant, no NNPC subsidiary – nothing to show that Imo and Abia has hydrocarbons except the eternal, infernal billowing gas flare flames.
If the southeast is shunted in the siting of oil infrastructure where it has some locus, what do you think became her fate in all the other sectors? Let’s take it sector by sector:
SEA PORT AND AIRPORT DEVELOPMENT: The federal government viciously neglected to site any seaport in the southeast. Notwithstanding that there are opportunities to develop inland ports in Aba, Oguta and Onitsha. All entreaties by stakeholders have been ignored over the years. Yet Lagos alone has three ports with two in progress in Badagry and Lekki. This is not to mention numerous terminal and jetties.
Even the natural ports in Port Harcourt, Sapele, Warri, Calabar and Koko are under-developed and have been allowed to become semi-moribund for the simple reason that it is mostly used by people of the southeast.
Further, Free Trade Zones are sited in almost all parts of the country except the southeast.
Under the Buhari administration, dry ports cum container ports are being developed in Kaduna, Kano and lately Ibadan. The half-hearted effort in Enugu is not functional because the federal government blatantly refused to allow an international airport to function in Igboland.
Talking about airports, it’s only in Igboland that the citizenry had to be levied to build an airport – the Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport (SMICA).
Designated a cargo terminal about 40 years ago, the Nigerian aviation authorities, Customs, Immigration all in concert with the federal government connived to make sure that SMICA never took off as an international cargo hub it was designed to be.
Ironically, FG built numerous airports with some designated as international yet they have remained unviable even as domestic terminals.
STEEL MILLS, RAILLINES, AGRIC PROJECTS:
The examples are numerous and they cut across all sectors… when steel mill was in vogue, mills were located everywhere yet no major one came to the southeast.
The way it is with gas pipelines, it is the same with railway lines. Southeast has been craftily skirted and shunted while the federal government is crazedly laying standard gauge rail lines into Niger Republic.
Military schools and defence complexes are a rarity in the southeast. Agricultural facilities like irrigation, fertiliser plants and silos are hardly in the east. The list is long.
It is particularly galling that the post civil war three R mantra of Reconciliation, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation turned out a ruse.
Apart from the Niger Bridge which was repaired following its devastation during the war, the federal government didn’t manage to erect any worthy project in the southeast. And it was in the post civil war oil boom of the 70s, 80s and 90s that Lagos and Abuja were built up while a few mega infrastructure like Ajaokuta Steel Plant, Eleme Petrochemicals, 3rd Mainland Bridge, Itakpe-Ajaokuta rail, Jebba bridge, etc were procured around the country.
A testimony to this fact is that Julius Berger, federal government’s construction mogul never really worked in the southeast during the period of so-called reconstruction.
The southeast largely remained a deprived and neglected wasteland since after the war, safe for self-help projects.The meagre facilities carried over from pre-independence have long fallen in utter disuse.
It is these old interstate roads that federal government makes so much song and dance about their stunted repair works five years on. Of course, the repair works on some of them have been abandoned and will never be completed in the life of this administration.
No country develops by deliberately asphyxiating a section thereof and where inequity is national policy the overall result is unsavoury.
By way of a recap the southeast east zone has no functional federal roads, no railway lines, no seaports, no functional international airport, no functional free trade zone, no refineries, no petrochemical plant, no major gas plant, no gas pipelines, no functional power plant (Oji River, Enugu is abandoned, Ala oji, Abia and Egbema, Imo have remained uncompleted and or abandoned for over a decade), no dams or irrigation schemes for agriculture, in fact, there is not a single economic enabler by the federal government in the entire southeast zone.
If you think this is not a deliberate genocidal mindset then what is the explanation?
This is not to discount the fact that southeast has been deliberately downgraded as the least populous zone in the country. But according to projections by global bodies, the southeast area of Nigeria is recognized as among the most densely populated spots in the world.
The southeast has the least federal allocation since after the war and of course for about 60 years, Ndigbo have been barred, so it seems, from certain key positions and appointments in the country such as headship of the NNPC, Ports Authority, Customs, FIRS, to name a few.
If federal projects don’t matter, why has the president sited over half a dozen projects in his hometown, Daura in Katsina State?
If economic galvanisation is not required, why has Dangote and Bua groups literally become the commercial arm of the federal government taking over mega projects in agriculture, fertiliser plants, petrochemicals, refineries, free trade zones, ports development, mining and of course cement plants.
And how come none of these Dangote and Bua mega installations is in the southeast. Not even the cement plants, which have become like pure plant to the groups. To the point that Dangote has about ten cement plants across Africa, yet southeast with one of the highest deposits of limestone has no cement plant. There must be a sinister, unwritten understanding somewhere!
Lastly, the most asinine and most infuriating is the fact that crazy Chinese loans that must be edging to about $50 billion are being procured for most of these projects under the Buhari administration. While the southeast zone is sidetracked and excluded, all the zones will bear the pains of these loans equally. Our children will pay for what they never enjoyed. Is this not worse than a shooting war?
One can go on and on but the question remains, if this deliberate economic strangulation of the southeast is not genocide, then what is it?
▪︎Steve Osuji, Tuesday July 14, 2020